Smarter Emergency Alerts

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureau) is advising Commercial Mobile Service providers participating in Wireless Emergency Alerts of their obligation to support the following WEA improvements to the system by May 1, 2019:

  • Longer WEA messages (from 90 to 360 characters) on 4G LTE;
  • A new “Public Safety Messages”class of alerts;
  • Spanish-language alert messages;
  • Display of WEA messages as soon as they are received;
  • State/Local WEA Tests, with the ability to opt in.

The Federal Communications Commission (Commission) adopted these improvements to help communities communicate clearly and effectively about imminent threats and local crises, and to create a framework that would allow emergency managers to test, exercise, and raise public awareness about WEA.

The full notice can be viewed at:

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Tackling Enterprise 911

Kari’s Law goes into effect for ALL SYSTEMS nationwide on February 16, 2020, after the expiration of a 2-year grace period allowing system administrators to become compliant. Kari’s Law requires businesses entities with multi-line telephone systems to provide the following capabilities on all phones:

  • Allow direct dialing to 911, without any prefix
  • Provide On-Site Notification when 911 is called
  • Route 911 calls directly to the local 911 PSAP

Avaya Partner Altura Communications has started a public awareness campaign in conjunction with Avaya and 911 Secure that is designed to inform customers of the issues at hand and offer solutions that are both functionally efficient and financially affordable. You can read their 3 part Blog series by Hank HuntMark Fletcher, and Kevin Kito on the topic here:

Read the Blog: 
A Daughters Cry Goes Unanswered

In part one of our three-part series examining how Kari’s Law came about, guest blogger and Kari’s father, Hank Hunt recalls that terrible night when his life changed forever

Read the Blog: 
A Grandfather’s Cry for Help Gets Answered

In part two of our three-part series examining how Kari’s Law came about, guest blogger Mark Fletcher – ENP, Avaya’s Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions recounts how he becomes involved

Read the Blog: 
Making Next Generation 911 a Reality

In part three of our series, Kevin Kito, CEO of 911 Secure discusses how 911 Secure brought the SENTRY™ solution to the market

A Message from Hank Hunt

State of Emergency?

9-1-1. It is likely the most well recognized ‘brand’ in the world. It is the three digits every man, woman and child know by heart recognized around the world. 

To provide a dispatchable location to emergency responders today’s Enterprise telephone system administrators have relied on the Automatic Number Identification / Automatic Location Information (ANI/ALI) database for years. This database provided 911 dispatchers a cross-reference, or reverse lookup of telephone numbers to critical dispatch location addresses. Another function of this core component was to work in conjunction with the Selective Router Database (SRDB) used to route calls in the PSTN to the right agency. This allowed number portability, among other things

However, it appears CenturyLink has provided their Washington State Enterprise accounts with notice that they plan to discontinue their critical PS-ALI services effective May 8, 2019. After this date, enterprise customers must establish a replacement service of their own through a 3rd party provider.

They specifically state in their customer notice:

It is the responsibility of the customer to update the PS/ALI database (via a third-party vendor) with the individual station address information.

A copy of the new Tarifs regarding this change can be found online here.

Time for a change?

This is troubling, as the short window of remediation is going to require MLTS system operators to make a snap judgment on a technology they may not fully understand, and the predatory sales tactics of some providers may hook an Enterprise into a long-term contract for services with a minimal roadmap to the future of NG911.

For our valued Avaya customers, WE CAN HELP. Don’t get caught up in the alphabet soup of acronyms you barely understand. We have our customer’s best interests at heart, and there are many ways to address this problem. Our team of industry experts is standing by ready to help you assess your current position, and guide new solutions that solve the p[roblem today, and well into the future. Kari’s Law is federally mandated starting February 16, next year, and the Ray Baum’s Act Section 506, is following close behind requiring dispatchable addresses.

The Avaya SENTRY™ solution was designed and built to provide full NG911 functionality, even over today’s legacy networks, complete compliance with all laws (active now and in the future), and deliver critical pre-arrival instructions to 1st responders with the actionable information they need to do their jobs. We are here for you to help you decide what’s right for YOUR business.

AI for Public Safety

It is no great secret that I am a total advocate for technology related advances for our nation’s Public Safety professionals. When it comes to the FIRST 1st Responders that provide the initial level of security for the public, the need for advancement could not be more relevant. Regardless of what you call these dedicated folks; Communications Officers, Dispatchers, or Call Takers, their job is becoming increasingly more and more difficult as we pile on not just the volume of citizens that can reach out to them, but now the increased ways citizens can communicate, using nearly any device or modality.

Text to 911 ≠ NG911

Some industry leaders equate the rollout of Text to 911 to the evolution of NG911 multimedia communications. I’m not sure that I really agree on that. They often point out the painfully slow adoption rate by citizens, as well as the slow adoption of the technology in 911 centers nationwide. For me, this was no great surprise, as for nearly a decade we have stood by  and watched as county by county PSAPs were added to the FCC’s master list. With over 6,100 PSAPs in the US, rollout was understandably slow, and the true benefit was never realized. Why? In my personal opinion, the deployment was controlled by the carriers and implemented as a business model, not a solution-based capability. The actual services were often limited, wrought with technical problems and lacked the attention to critical details such as location, one of the mainstays of the Public Safety industry. In fact, in most cases, location information was never actually delivered to the PSAP, and was only used by the network to decide the routing of the session to an appropriate PSAP.

“Hey Google . . . “

The latest innovation buzzword in the industry is AI, or Artificial Intelligence. But when you think about it, by definition, AI has actually been around for a long time, since the evolution of the computer. The very first mechanical computer or automatic computing engine concept was conceptualized as far back as 1822 by Charles Babbage. It was at that time Babbage began work on the Difference Engine, and it is considered to be the first automatic computing machine.


 Today, many of us think of AI as being more than just an oversized calculator. Intelligence has a connotation of the ability to cognitively reason and then learn, providing a layer of self-governed decision-making capabilities where decisions are made based on fact and analytics and not emotional response. This brings to light something that is likely the biggest fear of AI naysayers . . .

The Terminator Paradigm

Admittedly, my biggest personal fear of AI is the Terminator Paradigm. If AI was left to grow and learn unfettered by human intervention, these super intelligent and logical entities would quickly come to the rational conclusion that humans are dangerous to the growth and sustainability of the planet, and therefore attempt to eliminate us. This is the entire premise of the Terminator movie series, and it likely has some validity to it. Fortunately, humans will likely remain in control and not implement full Artificial Intelligence, but an iteration of it that I call:

Assistive Intelligence – The New AI

The real value of Artificial Intelligence is the ability of technology to provide empirical decision-making guidance based not only on factual data points, but historical data. This is where ‘intelligence’ comes into play; taking past history into consideration and allowing the process of machine-learning to take place. Putting this in the premise of Public Safety and the call takers, no longer do they need to fear the possibility of being overloaded with information or inundated with so much data they will miss critical indicators needed for them to make a decision. The new AI, Assistive Intelligence, will help them sort through the masses of information presented to them, quickly locating the relevant bits of information that are buried within and germain to the present situation.

Re-spinning Technology for Tomorrow

One of the many valuable features that the Avaya Contact Center offers is something called Whisper Page. This feature allows you to intrude on another user and be heard by them without being able to hear the user’s existing call which is not interrupted.

Original Artwork Copyright © 2019, Mark J. Fletcher

For example, as shown above: User A is on a call with user B. When user C intrudes on user A, they can be heard by user A but not by user B who can still hear user A.

The content of the Whisper Page can be audio from an AI Engine with specific advice to the call taker based on the context of the call as determined by a Speech to Text analytics engine.

One use case currently being developed by an Avaya DevConnect partner is the detection of a stroke condition based on specific speech patterns. A Whisper Page can alert the call taker to the condition, and then direct them to take on a specific list of questions suggesting the best course of action to take. The difference here is that the human (a.k.a. the Call Taker) remains in control of the situation and has the final decision-making authority. The AI tool is merely automating the Quality Assurance (QA) that is likely already taking place. What we have added is increased efficiency with the ability to do real-time QA providing instant feedback to the call taker.

The moral of the story? Understand and embrace technology. Allow it to contribute to your current capabilities and enhance them. Just think twice if the company name is Skynet.

Follow me on Twitter @fletch911
Read my other Public Safety Blogs

Data Privacy Vs. Life Safety

This week, an article by Nicole Lindsey that was published in CPO Magazine,  argued that citizen data privacy concerns outweigh the need for reliable location information being provided to first responders in the event of an emergency. This was in direct response to the Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) for enhanced 911 location data.

In this FNPRM, US wireless carriers would need to start providing vertical location accuracy when a user placed a cellular 911 call. The ‘accuracy’ that was proposed was to be within a height of plus or minus 3 meters to help indicate the floor, or vertical ‘Z’ axis for users in multi-story buildings. The goal to be met, was to require this enhanced location data in the Top 25 U.S. markets by the date of April 2021, and then a secondary milestone of the Top 50 U.S. markets 2-years later, by 2023.

The alarming position taken is one that incites mistrust in our nation’s First Responders as well as the entire Public Safety infrastructure as a whole. In her article, Ms. Lindsey states, “For years, the biggest telecom network operators in the U.S. [. . .] have been secretly selling location data of their customers”. While that claim is obviously true, it does sensationalize the situation a bit, especially when linking the location data leaks to emergency call traffic within the network. By doing this, the article unfairly lumps our Nation’s 6,100+ Public Safety Answer Points (PSAPs) into a category that is akin to telemarketers peddling back and knee braces, as well as low cost health insurance plans and countless other scams being perpetrated on our public in the rash of Robocalling activities currently afoot.

The last I checked, PSAP’s we’re not trolling the general public looking to push fire and ambulance services on unsuspecting citizens. Also, I’m fairly certain that anyone that was having an emergency that needed to call 911 would want to share their precise location information in an effort to save their life. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure most people would opt-in to that service. But, during an emergency, things happen quickly. Individuals don’t always or the ability to think with a clear head. It is for this reason that if a person indicates they’re having an emergency event, and they dial 911, it is likely a good idea to turn on location services if they’re off, and even a better idea to transmit that information to the PSAP so that the appropriate services can be dispatched to the correct and accurate address.

Yes, Robocalling, caller ID spoofing, and selling location-based data for nefarious purposes should all be illegal and curtailed using any means possible. But that should not impede or impact the ability for legitimate public safety requests to be processed by the network and the PSAP in a manner that provides them with detailed and discreet location information, including altitude.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s focus on the problem and deliver a workable solution that is not only efficient and secure, but one that protects citizen privacy in non-emergency events.

Fletch – Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

Check Out my PODCASTS on APN


Simplicity. It is clearly one of the main tenets of any good Bill or Law. While 9-1-1 telecommunicators and dispatchers have been referred to as our Nation’s FIRST 1st Responders, their position has been relegated to one that carries the very same classification as an administrative or clerical worker.

Why is this important? Congressional Representative Norma J. Torres states, “Federal agencies rely on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), a vast catalog of occupations, for statistical purposes.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) maintains the SOC.  Occupations are supposed to be classified according to the nature of the work performed.  However, the current version of the SOC categorizes Public Safety Telecommunicators as ‘Office and Administrative Support Occupations,’ which includes secretaries, office clerks, and taxicab dispatchers.  OMB recently conducted a revision of the SOC but failed to appropriately update the classification of Public Safety Telecommunicators. “

In her eyes, and the eyes of many others, these individuals should be categorized as “Protective Service Occupations,” which includes a broad range of other “protective” occupations that are more closely related to the job at hand, such as: lifeguards, fish and game wardens, parking enforcement workers, firefighters, and even playground monitors, among others. 

The 911 Saves Act is targeted at correcting this injustice and is one that YOUR Federal Legislator or Congressional Representative can get behind.


March 7, Rep. Torres will formally introduce the 911 SAVES Act, which (if passed) will reclassify Public Safety Telecommunicators and dispatchers. This is a huge moment for everyone working in 9-1-1, and a great opportunity to have our voices heard. Here’s how you can help:

  • Get up to speed. First, read NENA’s original comments supporting reclassification for a quick refresher on the issue. Then, read up on Representative Torres’ bill in the 911 SAVES Primer.
  • Connect with your Congressional contacts. They’d love to hear from you on this issue. Email them directly and ask if their bosses would be interested in either cosponsoring or expressing support for 911 SAVES. Here’s a quick Grassroots Guide for reaching out!
  • Email and tweet directly at your elected officials. Use NENA’s new Online Action Center to reach out directly to your local congressional offices by clicking here.
  • Watch the livestream of the 911 SAVES press conference on Rep. Torres’ Facebook page. She’ll be introducing the bill Thursday at 3:30pm Eastern — click here to go to her Facebook page, where the livestream will be hosted.

You can watch for updates here, or on the Blog site of my friend and colleague, Ricardo Marinez II

Fletch – @fletch911

Moving the Yardstick With Innovation

Raymond Sims Baum (August 18, 1955 – February 9, 2018) was an American lawyer, lobbyist, and politician. His Wikipedia page notes:

Baum was born and raised in La Grande, Oregon. He studied at Brigham Young University and Willamette University College of Law. Baum was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1983 and practiced law in La Grande. Baum served in the Oregon House of Representatives in 1988. He was majority leader in the state house for the Republican Party starting in 1995 but did not seek reelection in 1996. In 2003 Ted Kulongoski appointed Baum a member of the Oregon Public Utility Commission. He served there until 2011, serving as chairman starting in 2010. Baum worked for the National Association of Broadcasters and served as vice-president of government affairs. He died at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland from prostate cancer.

In honor of his career, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018 or the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 was raised in his namesake as a testament to his service to the American people.

The RAY BAUM’s ACT  has picked up many small provisions where those issues on their own didn’t warrant, or could not muster support for their cause in a separate bill. An item particularly intriguing within this act, is in Title IV, under Section 506. It states,

“The FCC must conclude a proceeding to consider adopting rules to ensure that dispatchable location is conveyed with 9-1-1 calls, including calls from multi-line telephone systems, regardless of the technological platform used. “Dispatchable location” means the street address of the calling party and additional information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.”

While I am certainly NOT a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, I can most certainly read and write the English language. The first 10 words of Section 506 say it all; “The FCC must conclude a proceeding to consider adopting rules”. That’s right, they have to finish making up their mind about having to make up their mind, or in other words, Get Ready to Get Ready. That’s it, end of the story – period.

Once again, the legacy database providers (a.k.a. the providers about to lose large revenues from database management fees) are running around telling their clients that the sky is falling, and they need to be compliant with a dispatchable location, pawning that off as individual station level reporting to the PSAP. Why? This seeds their coffers with revenue but actually provides very little actionable information to 1st responders.

For the record, I am NOT against providing detail to those responding to an emergency. In fact, I am all for that practice. What I take issue with is forcing a consumer to provide detail that is useless, at great expense and hardship, only to create revenue for those who store the data for public safety. Most often my arguments are deflected with the response, “Any small level of detail can be helpful when trying to locate a person in an emergency, and seconds count!”

Yes, seconds DO count. That is my precise argument. Instead of providing great detail that isn’t actionable (an EMT has no idea where cubicle 2C-231 is located in my building) why are we not using technology to create intelligent displays in the lobby that actually SHOWS a responder where they are needed, and how to get there in the event there is no one on site to guide them? The legacy Automatic Location Identification (ALI) record used today to convey information to first responders) is a text-only record just over 500 characters in length. There are minimal fields in there that provide the ability to include any relevant textual data.

NG911, on the other hand, is IP based and extensible. Information can contain text and URLs to additional data that can be retrieved dynamically if needed, and wherever it exists. The one problem that remains is the legacy voice network, capable of transmitting one thing and one thing only, VOICE. How do we get the data over this network?


We have been waiting for a decade or more for the NG911 ESInet to be built, but that is coming in dribs and drabs, and access is anything but ubiquitous, so we did the next best thing. We took the information we had in our SENTRY™ solution in the Shelby County Buildings Department and delivered that information to RapidSOS during a 911 call. The call reached the Memphis Police Department in Shelby County, and they were able to retrieve the associated floor plans and information about the station that placed the 911 call.


Along with floor plan information and emergency contact context, the SENTRY™ management console allowed text notes to be added to the incident record, and those additional notes were displayed to the call taker. History was made, and we moved the yardstick.

Follow me on Twitter @Fletch911

2,278 Days of Waiting

Back in the spring of 2012, I had the privilege of presenting at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Real-Time Communication conference in Chicago. In the session, I presented my construct for emergency-services location information delivery, in a new over the top model that did not require a next-generation 911 network or ESInet. Although many laughed at the thought, Dr. Henning Schulzrinne, a noted professor at Columbia University, and one of the authors of several Session Initiation Protocol RFC’s invited me to present my ideas at a Federal Communications Commission Workshop on Upcoming Test Bed to Improve Indoor Location Accuracy for Wireless 911 Calls.

Of course, I agreed and made my way down to Washington DC where I delivered my presentation. I laid out my over-the-top delivery methodology for additional data, where I effectively bypassed the voice carrier networks using the Internet and releasing Ma Bell’s grasp and control of emergency services location data, and it’s strongarm binding to pre-existing static location records and phone numbers.

While many saw the value of my architecture, of course, there were a few naysayers. None the less, the idea itself was simple and quickly solved the problem of getting data from the origination point to the resources that needed it; instead of storing the information in a carrier-hosted database, where the subscriber would not only have to pay for storage but maintenance as well as updates. By placing a static, but unique, pointer in the carrier database, any queries could be redirected back to the origination network. Not only would this remove the excessive costs charged by the 911 location database providers, but the actual information in the database would also now be available in real-time, and be the most current available.

If any updates occurred, such as location change or a change of descriptive information, these would only be needed in the internal copy of the database. With this being owned and managed by the enterprise and entirely under their control, this model was much more efficient than the carrier-based model. The only piece missing was the connection to the PSAP, however by publishing the URL to the data in the Enterprise, Public Safety was able to reach out to the data when needed. The functional element on the enterprise side of this model filled the role of feeding the URL data and proved to be a practical and efficient solution. Based on this model, Avaya had the SENTRY™ emergency call management platform developed by 911 Secure, LLC as well as the associated integration modules. Now, enterprise networks could prepare for NG 911 services that were going to arrive shortly.

The entire premise for this architecture was because the connection between the originating network and the public safety answer point was an analog circuit capable of voice communications only. What was missing and remained absent for the next 6 years 2 months and 26 days, was a secure, high-speed connection between the origination and the destination.

Earlier this year, RapidSOS announce the interoperability released with iOS 12 telephones. When those devices placed an emergency call, the location payload stored in the device would be transmitted to the NG 911 Additional Data Repository (ADR) being provided by RapidSOS. PSAP’s could access the repository by a standard query, once being vetted, and were able to retrieve the location of devices that originated emergency calls within their service area. Just a short time afterward, Google announced similar capabilities, also utilizing the RapidSOS repository. Within months of the availability, over 2000 PSAPs added the capability to their centers, covering nearly 70% of the population of the US.

Full disclosure, for the past five years I have held a non-compensated position as a technical advisory board member to RapidSOS. Because of this, I saw firsthand the value this service brought to the table with this new national repository. Since RapidSOS started to ingest data from any source through their published APIs, I immediately went to work with the software engineers at 911 Secure, LLC, the developers behind SENTRY™, and had them create an integration module allowing the enterprise also to contribute location and additional data with emergency calls. Within a few short weeks, they delivered a working model placing data in the RapidSOS sandbox, and the search began for an Avaya customer to be part of a live pilot program.

Fortunately, Shelby County Tennessee, a long time Avaya customer, was in the process of upgrading their CS1K communications platform to the latest Avaya Aura. Over on the public safety side, Shelby County 911 had just implemented the embedded RapidSOS capability in there Motorola VESTA™ platform, as well as the RapidSOS Lite web-based functionality in the PSAP serving the County facility. After presenting our use case to both parties, we began installation of SENTRY™ just before the holidays.

Finally, the day of reckoning came. On January 18, 2019, 2278 days after I presented my over-the-top architecture to The Federal Communications Commission, a live call to 911 was placed from the Shelby County Buildings Department, answered at the Shelby County 911 Center, where they received Voice, precise location, and additional data in the form of floor plans. There it was, we made public safety technology history. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, as we changed the game forever, and proved that NG911 was not only possible but a reality.

This past year I had the honor of being in the Oval Office with Hank Hunt as the President signed Kari’s Law into the law of the land, I was invited to be part of the Haleyville Alabama 50th year 911 Day celebration and be a Grand Marshal with several of my good friends in the Town parade. Now, I was a part of telecommunications history as Avaya, 911 Secure, RapidSOS, Shelby County Buildings, and Shelby County 911 worked in concert to enable the very first emergency call delivering NG 911 additional data to the PSAP.

Not only will this technology help save lives but provide desperately needed location details to public safety first responders, as well as critical multimedia such as video and still pictures in the event of an emergency.

Follow me on Twitter: @Fletch911
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Plan 911 From Outer Space

A few of you may remember, back in July 1969, what was then be most famous, and furthest, Long distance phone call ever made. As for the rest of you, you are now Googling of phones even existed that long ago!

I can assure you that they did, and on July 20, 1969, then President Nixon spoke with crew members Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin via telephone-radio transmission, with the  President in the Oval Office and the Apollo XI astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin while they were on the surface of the Moon.

Of course, that call originated on landline circuits, that is upconverted to a satellite link and then beamed into outer space on the Goldstone Deep Space Network. In many ways, this radio transmission is capable of voice and data, similar to any terrestrial based radio transmission. We’ve modern advances in communications, just like we have Wi-Fi here on the surface, the International Space Station (ISS) is also connected.

The magic of VoIP allows any IP-based telephone to exist no matter where the connectivity is coming from. That being said, it was really no amazing feat to put an IP phone inside the IIS, which apparently was done a few years ago. Unfortunately, IP phones don’t live on their own, they need to register and connect with a call server that provides trunk resources to the outside world. Once again, our space based VoIP phone follows this same rule, and is connected to an IP telephony system inside NASA headquarters.

As many people do, when calling international numbers people forget to dial the zero in the 011 International prefix. On the ISS phone, one of the astronauts recently dialed ‘9’ for an outside line, forgot the ‘0’, and then dialed ‘1 1’ followed by an international number. Of course, being a KARI’S LAW compliant telephone system, as soon as the system processed 911, the call was sent to public safety triggering internal alarms along the way.

Fortunately, everyone realized it was just an accident, and there was no emergency launch of a police cruiser to intercept the IIS in orbit! So what’s the lesson learned? 911 needs to work everywhere, including “up there”! But, it might be a good time to put in a Little missile prevention programming J

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